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Friday, July 1, 2022

Genteel German island balks at prospect of anti-capitalist ‘chaos’ party | Germany

Anti-capitalist protesters have called on Germans to take advantage of a heavily discounted public transport pass to “storm” a holiday island frequented by the rich and famous.

Sylt, an island off Germany’s North Nea coast, is seen as one of the more sought-after destinations for those holding the €9 a month ticket being introduced from 1 June.

Those behind the Chaostage (chaos days) Sylt 2022 campaign, which is trending on social media, claim their appeal is merely satirical, prompted by the contrasting fortunes of those struggling to cope with higher living costs who are seen as the beneficiaries of reduced transport costs and the multimillionaires and billionaires who often arrive on the island by private jet or yacht.

Sylt has long sandy beaches and a reputation as one of the sunniest places in Germany. Its wealthy holidaymakers stand accused of having turned it into an enclave for the rich, making it unaffordable to locals and the employees of hotels and restaurants, some of whom are forced to commute in from elsewhere.

The islanders at least are taking the campaign seriously. Island bosses say they are boosting security before a potential first wave of visitors on the weekend of 4 and 5 June.

As the RND news website put it: “The provocation is there, the ticket is cheap and the desire to party after the coronavirus years is great.”

Moritz Luft, the head of Sylt Marketing, said: “We simply don’t think the island is kitted out adequately for the €9 ticket and the stampede of visitors we expect in connection with that.”

On the Facebook page Chaostage Sylt 2022 people are invited to “come to Sylt with the €9 ticket and let rip”. Almost 12,000 have signalled their interest in going. The “party” will “run from 1.6.2022 until 31.8.2022”, it states, referring to the three-month period for which the pass will be available as part of a range of government measures designed to assist people with the rising price of energy and other living costs.

Westerland beach, Sylt.
Westerland beach, Sylt. Photograph: Wolfgang Diederich/Alamy

Normally, the average price of a one-way journey to Sylt from Hamburg, which takes about three hours on a regional express train, is €30.50, or double that for a return ticket. The journey to Sylt with the discount monthly pass can be made from anywhere in Germany as long as only regional or local public transport is used.

Isabella Wolbart, spokesperson for the leftwing youth organisation Solid, is among those calling for Sylt to be “taken back” to become “an island for everyone”.

“It is hardly a surprise that this has been seized upon in the internet in such a humorous way, especially by the leftwing scene. It’s a class struggle in pure form: champagne on the one hand, cans of beer on the other,” she told the weekly Die Zeit. “‘Chaos days’ will be a campaign of civil disobedience. It’s a political means of drawing attention to injustices and of tackling an existing system.”

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Some islanders have said they fear a repeat of events in the mid-90s, when the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn introduced a “Happy Weekend ticket”, which allowed five people to travel for €15. Thousands descended on Sylt in what was the original “chaos days” action. Many carried crates of beer and fish and bread rolls with them provocatively displayed in the plastic bags of the discount supermarkets from which they’d been bought.

Ole König, who owns an estate agency on Sylt and is a native of the island, told Die Zeit: “I’m having a sense of deja vu – in the mid-90s … Sylt was stormed by hoards of rucksack carriers and day trippers. And you know what happened? Overcrowded trains and beaches, young people wild camping at the beach, setting light to beach chairs and getting up to all sorts… … I protest against that happening again… … Those who intend to stalk us have a wrong impression of Sylt. It’s not a zoo of rich people in which millionaires and billionaires strut around … we also have camping sites and several youth hostels in which half of Germany has been on holiday.”

König said he was also concerned about potential damage to the island’s delicate nature and asked where all the visitors expected to be put up, adding that Sylt has only 60,000 beds.

Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, may regret having made the decision to shift his 7 July wedding party from Tuscany to Sylt, a decision he made after entering government. Island officials are now said to be looking to tighten his security.

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